THEME: ADVENT - PREPARING FOR CHRISTMAS
You are invited to a monthly day of recollection, organised by the Southcreek Centre.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Meditation: By Father Elo.
SPIRITUAL READING: 03:25pm
Christ Is Passing:
THE BLESSED VIRGIN, CAUSE OF OUR JOY
171 “Mary has been taken up to heaven by God in body and soul, and the angels rejoice.” Joy overtakes both angels and men. Why is it that we feel today this intimate delight, with our heart brimming over, with our soul full of peace? Because we are celebrating the glorification of our mother, and it is only natural that we her children rejoice in a special way upon seeing how the most Blessed Trinity honours her.
It was on Calvary that Christ, her most blessed Son and our brother, gave her to us as our mother, when he said to St John: “Behold your mother.” And we received her, along with the beloved disciple, in that moment of supreme grief. The blessed Virgin embraced us in her suffering, as the ancient prophecy was fulfilled: “And a sword shall pierce your own soul.” We are all her children, she is the Mother of all mankind. And now, the whole human race commemorates her ineffable assumption. Mary is welcomed to heaven: the Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, Spouse of God the Holy Spirit. Greater than she no one but God.
We face here a mystery of love. Human reason barely begins to comprehend. Only faith can shed some light on how a creature can be raised to such great heights, becoming a loving target for the delights of the Trinity. We know this is a divine secret. Yet because our Mother is involved, we feel we can understand it more — if we are entitled to speak this way — than other truths of our faith.
How would we have acted, if we could have chosen our own mother? I’m sure we would have chosen the one we have, adorning her with every possible grace. That is what Christ did. Being all-powerful, all-wise, Love itself, his power carried out his will.
See how Christians discovered long ago this train of thought. St John Damascene writes: “It was fitting that she who in childbirth preserved intact her virginity should preserve without corruption her body after the conclusion of her earthly life. It was fitting that she who bore in her womb the creator become a babe should dwell in the divine mansion. It was fitting that the spouse of God be taken to the heavenly home. It was fitting that she who witnessed her Son on the cross, suffering in her heart then the pain she was spared in childbirth, should contemplate him seated at the right hand of the Father. It was fitting that the Mother of God come to possess what belongs to her Son and that she be honoured as Mother and Servant of God by all creatures.”
Theologians have frequently come up with similar reasons to explain in some way the meaning of the abundant graces showered upon Mary and culminating in her assumption to heaven. They put it this way: “It was fitting; God could do so; therefore he did.” This is the clearest reason why our Lord granted his Mother, from the very moment of her immaculate conception, all possible privileges. She was free from the power of Satan. She is beautiful, spotless and pure in soul and body.
172 But don’t forget: if God exalted his Mother, it is equally true that he did not spare her pain, exhaustion in her work or trials of her faith. A village woman one day broke into praise for Jesus exclaiming: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nourished you.” Jesus said in reply: “Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” It was a compliment to his Mother on her fiat, her “be it done.” She lived it sincerely, unstintingly, fulfilling its every consequence, but never amid fanfare, rather in the hidden and silent sacrifice of each day.
As we meditate on these truths, we come to understand better the logic of God. We come to realize that the Supernatural value of our life does not depend on accomplishing great undertakings suggested to us by our overactive imagination. Rather it is to be found in the faithful acceptance of God’s will, in welcoming generously the opportunities for small, daily sacrifice.
To become God-like, to be divinized, we must begin by being very human, accepting from God our condition as ordinary men and sanctifying its apparent worthlessness. Thus did Mary live. She who is full of grace, the object of God’s pleasure, exalted above all the angels and the saints, lived an ordinary life.
Mary is as much a creature as we are, with a heart like ours, made for joy and mirth as well as suffering and tears. Before Gabriel communicates to her God’s plan, our Lady does not know she has been chosen from all eternity to be the Mother of the Messiah. She sees herself a humble creature. That is why she can acknowledge, with full humility, that “he who is mighty has done great things” in her.
The purity, humility and generosity of Mary are in sharp contrast to our wretchedness and selfishness. To the extent that we realize this, we should feel moved to imitate her. We, too, are creatures of God, and if we strive to imitate her fidelity, God will surely do great things in us. Our little worth is no obstacle, because God chooses what is of little value so that the power of his love be more manifest.
173 Our mother is a model of correspondence to grace. If we contemplate her life, our Lord will give us the light we need to divinize our everyday existence. Throughout the year when we celebrate feasts dedicated to Mary and frequently on other days, we Christians can think of the Virgin. If we take advantage of these moments, trying to imagine how she would conduct herself in our circumstances, we will make steady progress. And in the end we will resemble her, as children come to look like their mother.
First, let us imitate her love. Charity cannot be content with just nice feelings; it must find its way into our conversations and, above all, into our deeds. The Virgin did not merely pronounce her fiat; in every moment she fulfilled that firm and irrevocable decision. So should we. When God’s love gets through to us and we come to know what he desires, we ought to commit ourselves to be faithful, loyal — and then be so in fact. Because “not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
We must imitate her natural and supernatural refinement She is a privileged creature in the history of salvation, for in Mary “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.” But she is a reserved, quiet witness. She never wished to be praised, for she never sought her own glory. Mary is present at the mysteries surrounding the infancy of her Son, but these are “normal” mysteries, so to speak. When the great miracles take place and the crowds acclaim them in amazement, she is nowhere to be found. In Jerusalem when Christ, riding a little donkey, is proclaimed king, we don’t catch a glimpse of Mary. But after all have fled, she reappears next to the cross. This way of acting bespeaks personal greatness and depth, the sanctity of her soul.
Following her example of obedience to God, we can learn to serve delicately without being slavish. In Mary we don’t find the slightest trace of the attitude of the foolish virgins, who obey, but thoughtlessly. Our Lady listens attentively to what God wants, ponders what she doesn’t fully understand and asks about what she doesn’t know. Then she gives herself completely to doing the divine will: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.” Isn’t that marvellous? The blessed Virgin, our teacher in all we do, shows us here that obedience to God is not servile, does not bypass our conscience. We should be inwardly moved to discover the “freedom of the children of God.”
174 The Lord will grant you the ability to discover many other aspects of the faithful response to grace of the blessed Virgin. And to know these facets of her life is to want to imitate them: her purity, her humility, her fortitude, her generosity, her fidelity… But now I want to speak to you of an aspect that in a way encompasses all the others because it is a condition for spiritual growth. I’m speaking of her life of prayer.
To take advantage of the grace which our mother offers us today and to second at any time the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, the shepherd of our souls, we ought to be seriously committed to dealing with God. We cannot take refuge in the anonymous crowd. If interior life doesn’t involve personal encounter with God, it doesn’t exist — it’s as simple as that. There are few things more at odds with Christianity than superficiality. To settle down to routine in our christian life is to dismiss the possibility of becoming a contemplative soul. God seeks us out, one by one. And we ought to answer him, one by one: “Here I am, Lord, because you have called me.”
We all know that prayer is to talk with God. But someone may ask, “What should I talk about?” What else could you talk about but his interests and the things that fill your day? About the birth of Jesus, his years among us, his hidden life, his preaching, his miracles, his redemptive passion and death, his resurrection. And in the presence of the Triune God, invoking Mary as our mediatrix and beseeching St Joseph, our father and lord, to be our advocate, we will speak of our everyday work, of our family, of our friendships, of our big plans and little shortcomings.
The theme of my prayer is the theme of my life. That’s the way I speak to God. As I consider my situation, there comes to mind a specific and firm resolution to change, to improve, to be more docile to the love of God. It should be a sincere and concrete resolution. And we cannot forget to ask the Holy Spirit, with as much urgency as confidence, not to abandon us, because “you, Lord, are my strength.”
We are ordinary Christians. We work at the most varied professions. All our activity takes place amid everyday circumstances. Everything follows a customary rhythm in our lives. The days seem the same, even monotonous. But don’t forget that our condition which is apparently so common has a divine value. God is interested in everything we do, because Christ wishes to become incarnate in our things, to vivify from within even our most insignificant actions.
This thought is a clear, objective, supernatural reality. It is not a pious consideration to comfort those of us who will never get our names inscribed in the annals of history. Christ is interested in the work we do — whether once or thousands of times — in the office, in the factory, in the shop, in the classroom, in the fields, in the exercise of any manual or intellectual occupation. He is likewise interested in the hidden sacrifices we make to keep our bad humour or temper to ourselves.
Review in your prayer these thoughts. Take occasion of them to tell Jesus that you adore him. And thus you have a formula to become contemplatives in the middle of the world, amid the noises of the street, at all times and in all places. This is the first lesson we should learn in the school of intimacy with Christ. And in this school, Mary is the best teacher, because the Virgin always kept this attitude of faith, of supernatural vision, regardless of what happened around her: “And his mother kept all these words in her heart.”
Let us ask the blessed Virgin to make us contemplatives, to teach us to recognize the constant calls from God at the door of our heart. Let us ask her now: Our mother, you brought to earth Jesus, who reveals the love of our Father God. Help us to recognize him in the midst of the cares of each day. Stir up our mind and will so that we may listen to the voice of God, to the calls of grace.
175 But let’s not think only of ourselves. Expand your heart until it takes in all mankind. Above all, think of those near you — relatives, friends, colleagues — and see how you can get them to appreciate a deeper friendship with our Lord. If they are upright and noble, capable of being habitually close to God, commend them specifically to our Lady. And ask also for all those souls you don’t know, because we have embarked together on a single voyage.
Be loyal, generous. We form part of a single body, the mystical body of Christ, the holy Church, to which are called those who seek the whole truth. Consequently, we are strictly obliged to manifest to others the quality and depth of the love of Christ. A Christian cannot be selfish. If he were, he would betray his vocation. Far from Christ are those content with keeping their soul in peace — and a false peace at that — while ignoring the good of others.
If we have accepted the authentic meaning of human life, which is revealed to us in faith, we cannot remain peacefully on the sidelines. If in a practical and concrete way we aren’t drawing others to God, we can’t be at all satisfied with our behaviour.
There is a real obstacle to apostolate. It takes the form of false respect, the fear of touching on spiritual subjects, lest the conversation prove upsetting to certain people. It is a reluctance to take the risk of hurting feelings. How often is this reasoning the mask of selfishness. It’s not a question of hurting, but of helping. Although we might be personally deficient, the grace of God converts us into useful instruments for aiding others. Regardless of our shortcomings, we are called to share with others the good news that “God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth.”
And what right do I have to involve myself in the lives of others? Because they need it. Without asking our permission, Christ has entered our lives. He did the same with the first disciples: “Walking along the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the water, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Each one of us retains the freedom, the false freedom, to say no to God, like the rich young man mentioned by St Luke. But in obedience to Christ’s words, “Go and teach,” we have the right and duty to speak about God, of this great human theme, because the desire for God comes from the deepest recesses of the heart of man.
Holy Mary, “Queen of Apostles,” queen of all those who desire to make the love of your Son known, you understand our miseries so well. Ask Jesus’ forgiveness for our shabby lives — for what could have been fire and has been ashes, for the lights that have gone out, for the salt that has turned insipid. Mother of God, you are omnipotent in your petition. Obtain for us, along with forgiveness, the strength to live truly a life of faith and love, so we can share our faith in Christ with others.